The Westar Associates project was initially submitted in July 2008 and proposed for the semi-vacant land on Hollister Avenue between Glen Annie Road and Santa Felicia Drive. It would include 274 residential units, 19 one-, two- and three-story buildings, pocket parks, open space, stores and restaurants on the first floors of the southern portion.
The staff report compared the maximum height of the Westar project of 74 feet to the tallest Camino Real Marketplace buildings of 78 feet. But the project would be taller than most buildings along Santa Felicia Drive and obstruct the views of the Santa Ynez Mountains. That was one of four significant, Class 1 impacts listed in the environmental impact report — two aesthetic, one related to air pollution emissions and the other regarding solid waste. There were two beneficial impacts.
“Even if you start cutting down the height and some sections of the project, you are still left with an impact to the (view of the) mountains and the character of the existing site,” Goleta senior planner Scott Kolwitz said.
He added, however, that staff concluded that the public benefits in providing well-designed affordable housing outweigh the significant environmental impacts.
There were several positive issues brought up in public comment, including the need for affordable housing, new live/work units, new parks and open space, an additional streetlight and economic stimulus. Several dissenters cited over-development, traffic concerns and building on Chumash sacred grounds.
By the end of the meeting, Planning Commission chair Jonny Wallis determined that there were more questions than answers.
“We need to have this project returned to us,” she said. “We’re not ready to make a decision, and we also have a number of questions.”
The Planning Commission asked staff to provide a cross-section of the project renderings in relation to the Camino Real Marketplace, clarify the housing element and the five proposed live/work units, and traffic mitigation proposals.
The Planning Commission will reconvene at an unspecified date to discuss the Westar project. Its next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 13.